Canada and the U.S. have just agreed on a number of border control issues. The deal is supposed to make both trade and travel between the two countries easier. There are a total of 36 new measures meant to make it easier for people and goods to cross the border but without compromising security.
The changes involve costs as well, including a billion dollars in infrastructure projects over five years. Certainly some of the changes will make it much easier for goods to cross the border. For example, goods can be inspected and cleared for export at the place where they are manufactured and then cleared for shipment in sealed containers. The shipment will then not need to inspected at the border. There are also agreements to harmonize standards.
Among the most controversial changes are the exit controls. Canadians departing the country would have their departure recorded with Canadian authorities. However, Canadians would still need to clear only U.S. customs and immigration. The difference will be in the sharing of information. All information collected by the U.S. officials would be shared with Canadian customs officials and information collected by Canada customs on people entering Canada would be shared with U.S. officials.
The Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddard is critical of this provision. She wants to know what controls there will be to make sure the system is not abused and how much information will be shared. What happens to someone who is falsely accused of being a security threat?
We know already what happens when Canadian Intelligence Services shared intelligence with their U.S. counterparts. Maher Arar a dual citizen of Canada and Syria was detained while transferring planes on his way back to Canada. He was interrogated and then rendered to Syria where he faced further interrogation and torture. The U.S. deported him to Syria on the grounds he was an Al Qaeda operative.
Even though Arar was eventually cleared of any terror connections by an extensive investigation in Canada the U.S. refused to cooperate with the investigation and has never changed their position. He could not even fly to the U.S. to receive a human rights award because he is on a no fly list. The Canadian government on the other hand awarded him compensation of ten million dollars.
We can all feel secure now that the two Big Brothers have agreed on the manner of sharing their information on each of us. We can soon look forward as well for both nBig Brothers to collect bio-metric information as well. For more see this article. The Arar Inquiry is archived here.